Ronaldo was the best player in the world at Inter and all his Nerazzurri teammates knew it, according to Inter’s former midfielder Francesco Moriero.
Il Fenomeno joined Inter in a then world-record transfer deal from Barcelona in the summer of 1997 and dazzled the Nerazzurri faithful in his five-year spell with the club, despite the fact he spent a lot of time out injured.
Ronaldo scored 59 goals in 99 appearances before joining Real Madrid and Moriero has revealed it was impossible to treat him like just another player.
Speaking to Sky Sport Italia for a special program about Ronaldo, Moriero recalled: “On the first day of the pre-season training, Gigi Simoni entered the dressing room and said: ‘Guys, you are all the same, except one’.
“And that one was Il Fenomeno.
“Ronnie was something special, especially in training.
“He was fantastic during games but in training it was even ‘worse’, we needed 10 balls for every training match.
“We always supported him, there was no envy.
“We knew we had the best player in the world and we played for him to put him in a position to express himself to the fullest.
“It was something impossible, I didn’t think I could see a player in my life who did certain things like he did on the pitch.
“We had a great manager in Simoni, who rotated everyone, even him.”
Moriero, who played for Inter for three years between 1997 and 2000, then recalled what Ronaldo said prior to the Nerazzurri’s UEFA Cup semi-final at Spartak Moscow in 1998.
“Ronaldo was a cheerful 20-year-old,” he began.
“I remember we played in Moscow in -15 degrees and the pitch was a bog.
“He came into the dressing room and told us: ‘Don’t worry guys, today I’ll get us the win.’
“And then he scored twice.”
Moriero also explained his famous goal celebration with Ronaldo, which involved him pretending to clean the Brazilian’s boots.
“It’s the unity of a team which makes the difference in football, not an individual,” he argued.
“We were having fun, but that gesture was borne out of humility, with a teammate who kneels down and polishes the boot of the player who’s just won us the game.
“And Ronaldo won us a lot of matches.
“It’s a gesture which has gone down in history but I always enjoyed doing it; we were a harmonious group, it was a different era.
“Ronaldo would often come to my house to eat and I’d look after him a bit; if he was so happy in Milan it’s also thanks in part to me and my wife.
“You could even see the kind of relationship we had when he scored in the Milan derby: I picked up the ball, he got on his bike and ended up scoring.
“Ronaldo did fantastic things against important defenders, so he deserves double the credit for what he did.”
Moriero also revealed that he remains in contact with the players of the 1997-98 team and that members of the team often discuss the current events of the Nerazzurri club, who are top of Serie A after 27 games played.
“We have a chat with all the players from Inter 1997-98 and we also talk about the current matches,” he said.
“It’s nice to stay together after so many years and so many successes.
“It’s a special thing that doesn’t happen in many teams.”